The first bullets struck El Paso’s city hall at the end of a work day. The next ones hit a university building and closed a major highway. Shootouts in the drug war along the U.S.-Mexico border are sending bullets whizzing across the Rio Grande into one of the nation’s safest cities, where authorities worry it’s only a matter of time before someone gets hurt or killed.
At least eight bullets have been fired into El Paso in the last few weeks from the rising violence in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, one of the world’s most dangerous places. And all American police can do is shrug because they cannot legally intervene in a war in another country. The best they can do is warn people to stay inside.
“There’s really not a lot you can do right now,” El Paso County Sheriff Richard Wiles said. “Those gun battles are breaking out everywhere, and some are breaking out right along the border.”
Police say the rounds were not intentionally fired into the U.S. But wildly aimed gunfire has become common in Juarez, a sprawling city of shanty neighborhoods that once boomed with manufacturing plants. It’s ground zero in Mexico’s relentless drug war.
More than 6,000 people have been killed there since 2008, when the Sinaloa and Juarez cartels started battling each other and Mexican authorities for control of the city and smuggling routes into the U.S. Nationwide, more than 28,000 people have been killed since President Felipe Calderon launched his offensive against the cartels shortly after taking office in December 2006.